Zali Jestrimski, a La Trobe University Student, on her undergraduate research project investigating Dingoes in the Victorian High Country.
When Dr John Morgan suggested an undergrad research project on dingoes in the alps, I was thrilled. The idea was to use trail cameras at the Mt Hotham Alpine Resort – which had been set up to monitor foxes, cats and deer – to try and quantify the number of dingoes in the area. There was also the added bonus of assessing whether areas with dingoes had fewer feral animals. Dingoes have been a passion of mine for some time, and I know quite a lot about their behaviour from my time as a volunteer at a dingo sanctuary in Melbourne. But it was also apparent to me that we know relatively little about dingoes in the alps, and I was keen to improve that knowledge.
There is a misconception that there are no pure dingoes left in the Victorian high country. However, genetic studies prove otherwise and it was not surprising that the trail cameras at Mt Hotham have detected the species in the vicinity of the resort.
For my research project, I wanted to study the activity patterns of dingoes near Mt Hotham as there was nothing known about this. Where were they? When did they move about the landscape? In addition, studies elsewhere have shown that dingoes likely suppress cat and fox numbers, and may even affect the behaviour of Sambar deer. Could I observe fewer ferals where dingoes were present? While my study is a small one, and much more work needs to be done, I think I found some very interesting patterns.
In the vicinity of Mt Hotham, there were several dingoes observed over a two year period using the trail cameras to document their occupancy, including young ones. This suggests that dingoes are resident and breeding there. I found that there were less cats in locations with dingoes – although it’s hard to know if one is directly responsible for the other. I observed that dingoes do overlap with both foxes and deer but that the ferals tend to be active at different times to that of the dingoes. Are they avoiding the dingoes?
I hope this research is the start of an improved understanding of dingoes in the alps, as well as the role they play in this ecosystem. You can read about my work in The Victorian Naturalist 137: 96-104.